South Tyneside CCG News

NHS asks for patients’ views on new online ways of working

Fri 19th June 2020

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GPs in South Tyneside are asking patients to share their views on the new ways they have been working during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Facing the risk of Covid-19 infection, GP practices were forced to make sweeping changes to the way they see patients – but doctors and patients have welcomed many of the new ways, says Dr Tom Stadward, who leads on data and IT issues for NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

“Three months ago, the vast majority of GP appointments were face-to-face, but Covid-19 meant moving to safer methods like phone, online and video consultations almost overnight,” said Dr Stadward. “If you’d asked me six months ago, I’d have been nervous about doing such a high proportion of our work online, but we’ve seen real benefits for both practices and patients.

“Patients have welcomed many of the changes, like cutting out travel and time in the waiting room. I’ve had successful video chats with patients in their nineties.

“We are keen to hear people’s views on the new ways of working, so that we can hold onto the best of these changes in the future.”

A survey is now taking place, with patients in South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham invited to share their views about the different ways people can consult with a healthcare professional at their GP practice. The survey is available online until 3 July, 2020.

With local practices minimising face-to-face contact, most consultations currently start with a phone call, moving onto a video consultation where necessary. Many patients are also using eConsult – where you complete a form on the practice website, and a GP sends advice or arranges an appointment if you need one.

“A lot of things are working better this way,” adds Dr Stadward. “With a rash, for example, a photo is usually enough to diagnose and prescribe without ever being in the same room. If it’s something more concerning or the picture’s not clear enough, then we’ll see you in person, using full PPE and safety procedures.

“Another time we might just text you some advice, which often works better as it’s safely on your phone and can’t get lost like a leaflet. YouTube videos work well for physiotherapy exercises – it’s so easy to forget what you have been shown but you can watch a video as many times as you like.

“It’s surprised me – naturally we prefer face to face contact but in many ways I’ve enjoyed working differently.

“It’s important that we stay flexible to make sure everyone gets the care they need. Online consultations are not for everyone, and there are times when you definitely need to examine the patient in person – but where it works well, let’s keep it.

“Patients have really helped us during Coronavirus by being careful about how they use their GP – but please remember that if you have symptoms that worry you, it’s still important to contact your practice.”

The survey is open until 3 July, 2020.

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